Project Principal Investigators

Dr. maria olivares

Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Design & Development

Boston University

Dr. Maria Olivares is principal Investigator and lead designer for the Nurturant STEM Learning project. She is Research Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Design & Strategy at BU Wheelock’s Earl Center for Learning & Innovation, part of Boston University’s Wheelock College. Dr. Olivares has designed courses that she teaches in the Educational Design for Transformative Social Futures undergraduate specialization. Dr. Olivares has served as a principal investigator and co-principal investigator on several STEM education research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the private foundations.

Andrew coy

Chief Executive Officer

Digital Harbor Foundation

Andrew Coy is co-principal investigator for the Nurturant STEM project and Executive Director of the Digital Harbor Foundation. At Digital Harbor Foundation, he leads the organization’s efforts to bridge the digital divide through impact opportunities locally and across the country. He is a driven problem-solver with experience at the intersection of nonprofit, government, and technology.experience as a former teacher and nonprofit executive, as well as his work with President Barack Obama’s administration as a senior advisor to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Project Team

Tyler farinholt

Project Manager of Tech Extension

Digital Harbor Foundation

Tyler Farinholt is the Tech Extension Project Manager for Digital Harbor Foundation, spearheading the Nurturant STEM project. With a deep passion for nurturing personal well-being and creativity through creative learning experiences, Tyler brings over 10 years of non-profit expertise in educational settings encompassing STEM, art, and youth development. Tyler has studied Art History and Curatorial Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and is also a practicing professional artist.

Xanthe Matychak

Director of Tech Extension

Digital Harbor Foundation

Xanthe is the Director of Tech Extension at Digital Harbor Foundation where she works to scale the inclusive and innovative programming that is developed in our Tech Lab in downtown Baltimore. Prior to working at Digital Harbor, Xanthe taught design thinking and new product development at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell, the Department of Environmental Science at Ithaca College, and in the College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Ali Blake

 Doctoral candidate at Boston College

Boston University

Ali Blake is a teaching artist, doctoral candidate at Boston College, and a designer and researcher on the Nurturant project at the Earl Center. Ali studies the cultivation of relations in and as learning in a range of settings, especially in explicitly political and/or communal making practices. Ali has designed and facilitated arts-integrated and justice-oriented courses and programs, and learned with folks, in many formal and informal settings. Ali loves cooking and sharing food and making weird things together

Yuxuan (Sylvia) Wu

Undergraduate Researcher

Boston University

Sylvia Wu is an undergraduate researcher and educational designer for the Nurturant STEM Learning project. She is a BU student majoring in Education with a focus on educational design . She collaborated with Ali and Maria at the Earl Center, where they worked together to design activities for the Nurturant STEM Learning project. This experience marked her first foray into real-life design, as their work was actually applied at a children’s hospital. Sylvia’s passion for education and educational design stems from her initial intention to create practical, sustainable, empowering, culturally responsive, and influential designs. She strives to make a meaningful impact by designing educational resources that benefit both learners and the community.

Danielle Hendrix

Art Director

ECCE Design Studio

Danielle is the Art Director for the Nurturant STEM Learning project. Classically trained in the fine arts with her BFA in Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), she is the Owner and Creative Director of Ecce Design Studio, LLC, a boutique graphic design and marketing studio. Danielle has had the honor of creating and leading workshops at home and abroad for those with a curiosity or passion in the arts highlighting and elevating varied abilities, championing creative talents, and advocating for mental health in the public sphere. She loves meeting new people and of course, hanging out with her fabulous rescue dog Zoey.

Dr. Foad Hamidi

Assistant Professor and the Director of the Designing Participatory Futures (DARE) Lab 

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Hamidi is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Designing Participatory Futures (DARE) Lab in the Information Systems Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). As a researcher, Dr. Hamidi specializes in human-computer interaction (HCI), participatory design, assistive technology, and intercultural collaboration. With the DARE Lab, Dr. Hamidi and his team focus on designing and evaluating digital living media and personalized systems for diverse users, including adults and children both with and without disabilities. He is also interested in designing inclusive and sustainable maker processes, tools, and programs for diverse communities. To date, he has published over 50 publications in top-tier peer-reviewed journals and conferences and has conducted projects in five countries, including Kenya, Mexico, Bhutan, Spain, Canada, and the United States.

Erin Higgins

Doctoral Student

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Erin is a PhD student and research assistant at UMBC. She is interested in creating equitable and accessible makerspaces and observing the impact of these spaces in the community. She is also interested in using makerspaces to develop low-cost assistive technology.

Laura Lachin

Undergraduate Researcher

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Laura is an undergraduate student at New York University majoring in Integrated Design & Media and minoring in Disability Studies. She is interested in developing assistive technology and helping physical and digital spaces become more accessible. Additionally, she enjoys physical fabrication and using machines such as 3D printers and laser cutters. This summer, she is working at UMBC’s DARE Lab to assist with 3D printing, accessibility-related projects, and general research. Laura is a Maryland native and enjoys painting and playing video games in her free time.

Advisory Board

Dr. Eli Tucker-Raymond

Research Associate Professor

Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, Boston University

Dr. Tucker-Raymond is a research associate professor at BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. He is affiliated with the Earl Center for Learning & Innovation. His research focuses on creating and understanding humanizing spaces for learners at the intersection of STEM, literacy, and the media/arts. He is particularly interested in spaces that promote racial equity and critical, compassionate relationships between educators and learners.
A former middle school teacher, Dr. Tucker-Raymond has conducted research with community organizations and schools in Chicago, Ill., and in the Greater Boston area. He has served as principal investigator and co-principal investigator on several National Science Foundation-funded grants.

Dr. Martin Storksdiek

Assistant Professor, STEM Research Center

Oregon State University

Martin Storksdieck is the director of Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center, and a professor in OSU’s College of Education. The Center conducts applied research on STEM learning and education, science communication and STEM engagement in formal and informal settings across the lifespan. The Center works at the intersection of research, practice, and policy, with a focus on equity and social justice. Martin has more than 25 years of experience with research and evaluation in STEM-related fields and in environmental and sustainability education. Prior to joining OSU, he directed the Board on Science Education and the Roundtable on Climate Change Education at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Before entering the field of science communication in the mid-1990s as a producer of multimedia shows on climate change at the Freiburg Planetarium, he worked on local sustainability concepts for the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). He serves on the Science Advisory Boards for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education in Kiel (Germany), the nonprofit Explorer-at-Large, and is a trustee of the Tree Media Foundation. Martin is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He holds Master’s degrees in biology and public policy, and a Ph.D. in education.

Kyla Liggett-Creel

Assistant Clinical Professor

University of Maryland School of Social Work

Mark Jews

Co-Founder, Vice-Chair, Partnerships & Engagement

Healing City Baltimore

Mr. Jews community/human service career began as a peer counselor at Baltimore City College. Thereafter went on to major in Elementary Education at Morgan State University. While at MSU, Mr. Jews volunteered with the community service office, creator and overseer of several after school and summer camp programs throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Going on to service Baltimore through a unique blend of social service and sport, Mr. Jews coached high school and youth football and baseball for many years. To further hone his skill set, Mr. Jews went on to the prestigious Lincoln University Masters of Human Service Program. Mr. Jews has been with Bert’s Place Preparatory for Independent Living Program since its inception (16+ years), the last 10 years as the Program Manager and continues to be a stalwart at the agency. Mr. Jews is also a partner in the group practice (Holistic Health-Counseling and Coaching. Mr. Jews was also appointed by Maryland’s Governor Hogan to the Residential Child and Youth Care Practitioner board and ascended to vice chair of the board, serving for 4 years. Currently a part of Healing City Baltimore Executive committee and the nation’s first Trauma Informed Care Task Force ( as well. But most importantly a father, a husband, and an active community member.

Mitali Chakraborty

Chief Executive Officer and Founder

Youth Jobs Connect

Dr. Beth Warren

Sylvia Earl Professor and director of the Earl Center for Learning & Innovation

BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development

Dr. Warren is Sylvia Earl Professor and director of the Earl Center at BU Wheelock . As a learning scientist, her research focuses on designing and studying educational ecologies that build from the heterogeneity of human sense-making to multiply possibilities for learning and thriving for children and youth from historically marginalized communities. She takes a collaborative approach to research, partnering with teachers, youth, scientists and artists to re-center education as the cultivation of relationships that sustain learning and thriving. Before joining BU Wheelock in 2016, Dr. Warren was a research scientist at BBN Laboratories and at TERC. Over the course of her career, she and her colleagues have been collaborators in several national research centers and have been awarded over $20 million in grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the US Department of Education, and the Ford Foundation.


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The primary sponsor for Nurturant STEM Learning (formerly Young Patients as Innovators) is the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Research on Learning (DRL) and Education and Human Resources (EHR). This project is supported under Advancing Informal STEM Learning Grant #2005942 (Digital Harbor Foundation, Inc.). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.